Crime - Sacto 911

Fires officials urge caution when burning debris piles

Because of this winter’s record high temperatures and lack of rain, fire officials urge people to exercise particular caution when burning debris piles.

Winter typically is the time when foothill and mountain residents use door yard burn piles to get rid of brush, tree limbs and other debris on their property to prevent wildland fires come summer. But this winter, officials with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection report that the burning activities have sparked wildland fires.

“Almost daily there have been small wildland fires because the person burning their debris piles either lost control of the piles or didn’t completely extinguish the piles and the piles re-ignited,” Mike Kaslin, chief of the CalFire’s Amador-El Dorado Unit, said in a written statement. “The fires threaten the surrounding community and can cause the person who started the fire a lot of grief.”

If the fire escape’s control and burns onto another person’s property, the individual who started the fire may be held liable for the costs of putting out the fire, Kaslin said.

Historically, escaped residential debris burn pile fires are one of the leading causes of wildland fires in the area served by the Amador-El Dorado Unit, officials said. They warn that, too often, residents become complacent about door yard burn piles because they have done it for years and may not take all the precautions they should.

Although it is essential to make property “fire safe” with 100 feet of defensible space around all structures, property owners who choose to dispose of brush, limbs and other trimmings in burn piles are advised to follow some simple rules:

Immediately before igniting the burn pile, check the burn day status by calling the local air pollution or air control management district. If it is a permissive burn day, make sure a responsible adult will be able to be in attendance at all times until the burn pile is completely out.

Clear combustible or flammable material a minimum of 10 feet from all burn piles, and keep a shovel, rake and charged water hose near the burn pile.

To ensure the burn project is completely out, douse the fire with plenty of water and use a shovel to stir the water into the ground. Fire officials caution that the fire can lurk for days, weeks or even months.

If the fire does escape control, quickly call 911.

To find out whether it is a permissive burn day, call the local air pollution control or air quality management district: Amador County, (209) 223-6246; El Dorado County, western slope, (530) 621-5897, or (866) 621-5897; or El Dorado County, Tahoe Basin, (530) 621-5842 or (888) 332-2876.